Earth to Jo-Ann…Come In Jo-Ann

It’s March 12th and we’re so excited. It’s 10:34 p.m., we’re situated along Florida’s Space Coast, (east side of the state on the Atlantic Ocean, 74 kilometres [46 miles], south of Cape Canaveral). The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is at the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and is ready for take-off. It’s the 4th rocket launch since we arrived here on January 1st.Kennedy Space Centre

During the 10 minute countdown to lift off, my imagination kicks in and it brings me back to our home up north, t
o our bedroom, and to the large photograph hanging over the headboard. It is the now famous photo of planet Earth taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometres (28,000 mi) from earth, titled, The Blue Marble, that I purchased sometime in the 1980’s at Kennedy Space Centre.

I bought this photo then because I love our home planet. I find myself often, sitting on my bed and losing myself in the magnificent beauty of our planet. I contemplate our blue jewel suspended in the velvety blackness. I marvel at our fragile sphere.

I think back to 1992 when Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut boarded the space shuttle Discovery, and broke the mould. I recall an interview upon her return from space, she remarked that she had looked out of the window of the shuttle and was struck by all the empty space around our planet. That we’re alone in our part of the universe, she pointed out that it’s the only home we have right now, and we need to take care of it.

Earth looks peaceful and harmonious from space, but of course all is not as it appears. Conflicts threaten our very survival. Weapons are poised, ready to annihilate life as we know it at a moments notice; environmental crisis is lurking, and conflicts that are rooted in antiquity abound. Human destiny is unclear, the veneer of civilization is yet exceedingly thin, and our current actions bring sustainability into question.

Oh my, the glow of what looks like the dawn of a new day, fully illuminates the horizon to the north of us. It’s 10:44 p.m., and we have lift off. Within seconds a large fire ball climbs through the inky black sky. WOW! The rocket has a quartet payload of what is called Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) spacecraft, which is the first space mission dedicated to the study of magnetic reconnection. My own very basic understanding of magnetic reconnection is that it is a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe where magnetic fields connect and disconnect with an explosive release of energy. Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important drivers of space weather events, such as eruptive solar flares.

It’s amazing to think the journey it took human-kind to arrive at a day where representatives of earth can leave our home planet, not knowing what they will find.

Arriving back to our Florida condo after witnessing the spectacular liftoff I am in awe as I think of humanity’s epic journey out of Africa, the cradle of humanity, to eventually populate the earth. We are a species of brave pioneers and adaptive innovators.

I’ve lived most of my life so far in the 20th century. Those of us who have lived during this time in our planetary history have witnessed the extraordinary miracles and folly of humankind first hand. Ours has been a century of demystifying, human-made miracles and human-made catastrophe.

My mother who is only 22 years older than I, lives with the effects of a world evolved from the dim years of the Great Depression to World War 11, and she witnessed the incandescent Nuclear Age.

Progress has been swift for the most part and severe. I have lived through the silent war that was never overtly fought, (Cold War). Watched as humans fought over ideology, and are engaged in an era of organized global terrorism, the likes of which has never before been experienced.

In this age of miracles such as; The Human Genome Project and gene therapy, Pandemic Planning and Coordination of Response, creation of life saving and life sustaining ostomies. The Human Brain Project, an international team of researchers led by German and Canadian scientists have produced a three-dimensional atlas of the brain that has 50 times the resolution of previous maps. Microscale 3-D Printing. And, the list goes on. In my lifetime I have seen the horse drawn ice wagon, delivering ice to my neighbours in a time when not all folks had a refrigerator. And then, just a few years ago my life was saved and extended by the technology of modern medicine, and the skills of medical practitioners.

I have lived momentous days, extraordinary in the ability of people to coordinate their minds and skills to ensure the continuation of humanity’s journey and our own individual journeys. The little blue speck in the midst of the vast emptiness that is dotted by luminous celestial bodies is our home, and this ostomate is honoured to be graced with an extended life and the opportunity to live life to the fullest on this beautiful blue marble.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

Oh My…Already?!

Time certainly flies! One year ago this month Percy and I created, “The Ostomy Factor” blog and published our first posting November 14, 2012 titled, “Chances Are”.

Our mission is to share the ostomates life, our times, ups, downs, and all arounds with ALL through humour and inspiration.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge, as we experienced the many adventures and misadventures life could throw at us in this past year. During this time, through amazon we indie-published our book, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”, December 2012. Since then, our real life compelling tale is now available in 8 countries worldwide, (United Kingdom, US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan), and is receiving 5 out of 5 star rated reviews. Folks with ostomies and folks who don’t have one have read the book, and the feedback has been more than complimentary. Through humour and inspiration readers are sharing their tears, laughter, stories and human spirit, with Percy, my husband Mark, and I. This has been a true gift for us.

For more information on the book look to the right of this post on the blog viewing window, click on the photo pic of me, and you’ll be linked to the youtube video that features the book trailer. Or, you can simply click in this posting to view it. Youngest step-daughter, actress Meredith Henderson, through the production company, SisbroandCompany, created the video. The music and lyrics featured in the video are written by step-son Noah, and performed by my hubby Mark and his children’s band, “Tangleroot”. Enjoy! Percy and I are thrilled with their creative and joyous support. Gosh, 2nd chances at life just keeps getting better and better.

Percy Stoma may have made history by being the first stoma to write blog posts, Percy posted the first stoma to stoma, and, stoma to human blog post December 2012. By this time Percy and I had also painted an oil painting on canvas titled, “Percy A Self Portrait”. You can enjoy the art piece every time you look at the cover of, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”. Stoma’s are often referred to as a rose bud. This is due to the fact that the end of the bowel extending externally from the abdomen (stoma), looks like a rose bud. If you find Percy homely in his actual orientation, flip the book upside down and you will see him as a beautiful rose bud.

What’s that? Oh yes, Percy would like you to know the oil painting will be traveling with us, and will be featured at our upcoming speaking engagements. As you can imagine Percy is rather shy and needs to have a bag over his head, and so, Percy is thrilled the painting is up on stage with us providing an opportunity to view him as a representative of one of many stomas around the world who are responsible with keeping their human alive.

Speaking of Percy, the little pungent pooper has quite the sense of humour. As the year moved on and each month progressed my parastomal hernia, a somewhat common complication for ostomates, grew. My abdominal profile which included Percy expanded, we eventually looked about 5 months pregnant on the abdominal left hand side, whilst the right side stayed normal. Not only was this risky health-wise, it also presented a fashion calamity. Percy in his immutable fashion took the opportunity to write the blog post, “Percy Gets A Dress”, see the January 28th, 2013 post, and enjoy a good chuckle.

We travelled the winter of 2013, and took the opportunity to visit Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. An inspired Percy embarked on celestial adventures, and he almost became a squished stoma as he was strapped into our seat during the Shuttle launch. See, “Percy Blasts Off”, February 22, 2013 blog post.

Interestingly, we as human beings have our gut feelings and we feel “butterflies” in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our, “second brain”.

A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does not merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang. The little brain in our innards, (no offence to the “little brain” reference is intended Percy), in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.

Although it’s influence is far-reaching, the second brain is not the seat of conscious thoughts or decision-making. Science tells us that the multitude of neurons in the enteric nervous system enables us to “feel” the inner world of our gut and it’s contents. This may explain Percy’s compassion when he took on the project of creating and writing the April 9th blog post, “A Bedtime Story”. Thanks Percy.

Our blog is reaching out to people all over the world, and many have taken the time to connect back with us. Larry in Jersey City, USA, wrote to us about, “Empathy”, which is shared in, “Fellowship of the Bag”, June 5th blog post. And, the phenomenal Lizzie who lives in Zimbabwe, Africa, inspired me, and in the spirit of connecting with our community of humanity for the purpose of touching and being touched, I posted, “Triumph Of The Human Spirit – Lizzie’s Story”, May 16th blog post, in her own words. Thank you Lizzie for your honesty, strength, and commitment to fellow ostomates.

During this past year Percy has settled down to the life of a stoma, pooping, passing wind, writing/ posting blogs, and keeping me alive. Percy’s reputation has grown steadily, and when we endured the 2nd major surgery in 2 years in March of 2013, Percy and I once again had to battle for our quality of life.

It has been another chapter in an amazing life journey, starting from the time leading up to the 2nd surgery, Percy’s DIVA moments while being wheeled into the operating theatre, the zoo, ahem…I mean hospital room and weirdest hospital stay I have ever experienced, our recovery, and our life after life adventures continue. Percy and I are busy writing our next book featuring this amazing journey, we’re calling it, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag – The Sequel”, and we expect to publish in 2014. Percy and I will keep you posted.

At this time Percy and I would like to express our deepest gratitude to each and every one of you. It is our sincerest hope that you have enjoyed our adventures, learned a few things, had a few chuckles along the way, and have been inspired to take each day as it comes with optimism, in spite of it all. We look forward to continuing the adventures together with you over the next year ahead. Don’t forget to leave a comment, we love hearing from you.

All in all, it has been an amazing and at times challenging journey over the past year. I am an ostomate and Percy is a stoma, now we do almost everything I used to do before Percy’s creation, and we are able to enjoy everything in life we want to. I have hopes, dreams, and a strong desire to live a joyous and full life, in spite of it all. I was carved into a survivor, Percy keeps me alive, I have a 2nd chance at life – it’s the icing on the cake, and the cherry on top!

With Gratitude,

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


Everyone you meet has a story to tell.



Percy Gets A Dress

Here we are in sunny Florida, basking in the warmer than usual southwest Florida weather. Meanwhile, our family and friends at home are navigating snow covered roads, bracing themselves against a -31 C windshield factor. Do wish everyone could be here with us.

Southwest Florida is known for sunshine, Everglades, white sand beaches, and some of the best bargain hunting outlets.

With the wedding of one of our daughters of our blended family scheduled for the end of June, what better place to shop for a dress, I do not know.

Now it must be understood Jo-Ann is not a happy camper when shopping, even at the best of times. It’s just not her thing. That’s when she asks her sister-in-law Nola, to join her.

Nola has a great fashion sense, loves shopping, is very patient, and gently honest about what suits or does not. So, it’s off with Nola to shop.

Jo-Ann and Nola’s mission if they chose to take it – was to find a “step-mother of the bride”, dress that would suit Jo-Ann and camouflage me, while getting as much bang for her buck as possible

It was early morning, (the early bird gets the worm), and already it was hot and steamy. GPS on the car dash, Nola and Jo-Ann left for the outlet

We parked the car and took a reconnoiter of the vast parking lot, already beginning to fill, and got a sense of the lay of the land. Across the horizon as far as we could see, there were stores, stores, and more stores.

Nola excited to get started and Jo-Ann almost overwhelmed, our first stop was the outlet map. X marked the spot where we were standing, and it was time to get moving.

Like a river running through a canyon we walked the ribbon of concrete between store fronts. Buildings to our right, and to our left. We were 3 on a quest for the perfect dress.

I am situated on top of a honey dew melon sized parastomal hernia, on the left side of Jo-Ann’s abdomen. Jo-Ann looks about 5 months pregnant on the left side, and her right side is relatively flat. There are times when she is aware of her lop sided physique.

Under Nola’s expert training, somewhat timid Jo-Ann gained confidence, and started to feel MacGyver-ish. There are resourceful fashion solutions, it’s simply a matter of fashion awareness

Jo-Ann realized that she now must consider and in some cases, change her fashion style. Clothing that she liked before, for the most part do not suit her new body shape.

How to do this? Well, time to consider what draws the eye to other more flattering body parts. Next, find clothing that are constructed in such a way as to draw the eye to a decorative focal point such as; a strategically placed buckle, pleats, and so on.

Looking  at various fabric prints Jo-Ann realized there are patterns with various colour palettes that create a general look that once again, pulls the eye with pleasing results. And finally, Jo-Ann has learned to stay away from fabrics that cling.

It was time to enter the cool and brightly lit stores. Splitting up to cover as much ground as possible, Jo-Ann and I went to one set of racks, and Nola to another.

As I mentioned, I am situated on the left side, and so my camouflage requires strategic placement. As our quest continued under the hot mid-morning sun, Nola would find a nice dress that might suit. Jo-Ann would try it on, only to realize that the focal point of that particular dress would be on the right side.

Personally, my lumpy profile with a gather or a flower on the opposite side seem quite interesting to me, but, Jo-Ann and Nola certainly didn’t think so. I can’t tell you how many times they did this. Nola would hold up a dress and say, “hey, this one looks great, oh, it’s right handed”, and they would chuckle.

Store staff even got into it, being very helpful and understanding Jo-Ann would say, “see my right side profile, this is what I look like. Now, see my left side profile, this is what I really look like”. A small army of determined women in each of the stores joined us on our quest.

And then the moment we all anticipated arrived. Nola found a deep purple velvet dress. It has pleats that fold diagonally from the right across the bodice and down the dress to the waist. It all meets on the left, coming together with a chiffon type material that gathers into what reminds me of a flower. From the flower like a vertical wave, wide ribbons of chiffon drapes down to almost the hem line. This dress is elegant, with a bit of flare, it accentuates Jo-Ann’s assets and camouflages me.

3 cheers, high fives and a hip hip hurray. Our mission was a success. Our quest had been filled with all of the twists, turns, challenges, and comraderie a shopping trip offers. Our last stop would be the cash register.

At home, we guesstimated the dress would probably cost us around $150.00. But, we were at a South Florida outlet, sales abound, and who knew what the last press of the registers screen would reveal.

Jo-Ann held her breath, and Nola winked as they waited for the final sale. With a smile on her face, the store representative announced, “that will be $18.50”.

Jo-Ann and Nola looked at the registers digital screen, yes the electronic print read, $18.50.

Astounding, incredible and amazing, were the thoughts that passed through Jo-Ann’s mind. These thoughts translated into giggles, laughs, and a few OMG’s.

As with any successful quest in life, there is always something to be learned and this one is not an exemption. I learned with a little sense, (in this case fashion sense), some resourcefulness, and commitment, all people are beautiful just the way we are including me, just as I am.

Percy Stoma

Eol. Poopology